Filed under: Healthy Swellness

Tech Swellness: At home with Amazon

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Now having been home without any international travel for a whole year, I’ve slept in my own bed more in the last 365 days than I have for the past decade or so. Being at home so much has made me want to carve out ways to streamline routines and habits, and make it a little more comfortable. Having routines can help ease stress, and so they contribute to your overall mental health.

I had a chat with Amazon Canada who teamed up with designer Arren Williams several weeks ago and learned about Amazon’s lineup of products and how they could work with my home decor. Although I’ve used a few Amazon products for a couple of years now, I recently upgraded both my Echo and my Firestick. I don’t consider myself a very techy person but the new and improved Echo and Fire TV Stick are such fun and do make my everyday life at home better.

The new Echo, an adorable sphere, fits in better with my aesthetic compared to the previous model I had (a black cylinder), and I’ve set up one routine thus far on it. Each morning, I say “Alexa, good morning!” and Alexa replies with the date (I never know the date so I like this little reminder), the time, the weather (so I know how to get dressed for the day, although let’s face it, it’s pretty much either sweatsuits and running gear now during lockdown life), what’s on my calendar for the day, and it ends with news tidbits from CBC News.

This routine I’ve set up is a quick little rundown that helps me prepare for the day. I left out traffic since I don’t drive regularly. I should set up a bedtime routine, too; that’s next on my to-do list. There’s another routine they suggest, which is for Alexa to share the weather once you turn off the alarm, which is a good one if you don’t have time to do the entire detailed good morning routine. Add in a traffic report if you’re driving, too (I mostly walk or bike so I’ve left that one out). And as always, the Echo is great as a Bluetooth speaker for listening to Spotify or my favourite podcasts (I’m currently catching up on episodes of Conan O’Brien’s podcast, along with Fake Doctors Real Friends, and Office Ladies).

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And the Amazon Fire TV Stick? I got one a few years ago and loved that I no longer had to watch everything on my laptop, which is great since I got rid of cable and  now mostly watch shows streaming from Prime, Netflix and C rave. My favourite thing about the new Fire TV Stick I got to replace my oldie? It has power, volume and mute on the remote, which is extremely handy for me since I seem to have misplaced my TV remote. But even better, it has an Alexa Voice Remote, so I just hold down the button and say, “Alexa, play Superstore” and it automatically finds and plays Superstore from Prime. Helluva lot more convenient than first having to google which streaming service a show is on, going onto the streaming service and then tediously typing in the show and searching for it. The Alexa Voice Remote is a game changer and IMO worth upgrading to the current Fire TV Stick if you’ve got an older model.

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My newest tech toy isn’t that new to the market but I’ve never had any smart lightbulbs until now. I’m excited to test out the Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting because I have a bad habit of falling asleep with the light on. Now I can set a routine for the light to slowly dim (and maybe it’ll prompt me to go to bed at a decent hour!) so that I don’t wake up at 3 a.m. to turn it off. And to help me wake up in the mornings? I can set up a routine to gradually brighten to help me ease into the day (which is especially helpful now in the winter with the sunrise so late). I’m only just getting started using the Philips Hue but I think it’ll really benefit my sleep routine. Stay tuned, I’ll report back on my Instagram!

How smart is your home? The smart home tools I’ve tried out so far really benefit my health and lifestyle (you don’t want to know how often I’ve used it to help find my phone in my place. Sometimes I find myself asking Alexa to help me find everything from my keys (and I don’t have a Tile on them) to my library book, that is how hooked I am!

Disclosure: Amazon Canada gifted me with the Amazon and Philips products.

2 Comments February 19, 2021

Healthy Swellness: Three Simple Ways to Boost the Nutrition of What You’re Eating

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When it comes to eating well, I take a balanced approach. One of the greatest pleasures in my opinion is eating delicious foods, including those that aren’t so good for youso I eat a balanced diet most of the time, and then savour without any guilt the less than healthy items once in a while. I’ve always railed against that thinking, that healthy means kale and celery juice and quinoa only.

And another thing: Eating nutritiously doesn’t have to mean spending more. You just have to make smart budget-conscious choices with what you purchase and shop in stores where you can count on lower prices, like Giant Tiger. (Bonus: you can buy other items you need there, like cute workout gear, too, so you can limit your shopping excursions at the one convenient location that’s nearest you). In the past year, I’ve switched from only going to my usual (pricey) grocery store, and I can tell you the savings are significant if you make the effort to shop for groceries at a budget-friendly store like Giant Tiger.

Anyhow, as for the balanced approach to eating well? I look at every meal and snack as an opportunity to up the nutrition of what I’m consuming. You can accomplish this with some simple tactics, like these three, which work well for me:

1. Add veggies whenever possible. More often than not, I tend to cook one-pot type meals. So when cooking up my all-in-one dish, I consider how I can throw more vegetables into it as well. A pasta with meat sauce? Well, you can easily include some mushrooms in there, too, and celery and grated carrots. 

Or consider your breakfast; it’s a prime opportunity to eat more veggies, especially as veg is not a typical breakfast ingredient. I used to make fruit and juice smoothies all the time, but I realized you can easily throw some kale or spinach into the blender too (and some Greek yogurt for richness and protein) and it tastes great. Another great vehicle for veggies? Frittatas and breakfast wraps: throw in your usual eggs and sausage but add tomatoes, black beans, spinach and green peppers, too.

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Also, why not enjoy a salad for breakfast? Instead of just making bacon and eggs for your first meal of the day, take inspiration from a BLT and make a salad with those same ingredients, and throw in a hardboiled egg for protein, some avocado (which provides omega-3 fatty acids), some flax, chia seeds or hemp hearts for texture, and a vinaigrette made with olive oil (a staple of the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the most healthy in the world). I’m really digging salads for breakfast when I have time to throw one together as it’s not only tasty, but I always feel like I’ve kicked off the day on the right track with a healthy helping of veggies, which is a great motivator to staying on the wellness train the rest of the day.

2. Include some protein in each meal or snack so that your body feels satiated. Plan what you snack on for the week (so that you’re not opting for a danish when you feel that tummy grumble) and make sure your snacks have got some protein so you can keep plugging through your day well fueled. A quick snack I often go for is an apple, but eat it with some nut butter (I enjoyed this apple with Wow Butter, a tasty nut-alternative option available at Giant Tiger) and not only will your snack feel more like a treat but your body will feel more full longer. 

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Or for dinner on those nights you don’t feel like cooking? Do a ploughman’s lunch-inspired meal to snack on: here I’ve included almonds, hummus and a hardboiled egg for protein, carrots for some colour (and then you’re also accomplishing point #1 above!) and a serving of Saint Paulin cheese (one of my all-time favourite cheeses, and I love that it’s carried at Giant Tiger).

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3. Stock up on smart staples that make eating well easy. It’s always easier to eat healthily if you make it super simple to incorporate into your schedule. Having ingredients on hand that help you eat a more balanced diet can make a world of difference when you’ve got tons of work to get done, a dog to walk, piles of laundry to do, etc, etc.

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Some of the convenient staples you can stock up on at Giant Tiger that I love: 

  • natural almonds (good as add to salad or as a quick snack on their ownjust watch your portion size; keep it to a small handful or approximately 23 almonds); 
  • hard-boiled eggs (this package of ready-boiled eggs is a lifesaver when you’ve got a busy week); 
  • canned tomatoes (great to have on hand so you can whip up a shakshuka meal or a quick pasta sauce; plus canned tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene); 
  • frozen fruit for smoothies; 
  • hummus (which research has shown is linked to fighting inflammation in the body); 
  • Gardein products, the meat-alternative products from this brand make meatless Monday meals no brainers;
  • Larabars (when buying packaged snacks to enjoy on the go, look for ones with ingredients you can identify, like Larabar, which is one of my favourite bar brands).

I know when I go to Giant Tiger I’ll be able to get everything I need to make loads of affordable meals and snacks as they sell fresh produce and fresh meat, along with the pantry staples I always keep on hand, like canned tomatoes and flavoured Perrier, and it’s all at fantastic prices. Because a lot of us, especially now during the pandemic, are more conscious about our spending than ever, I know I am. So on top of making Giant Tiger a go-to shop for your groceries and more, be sure to also sign up here for GT VIPyou’ll save even more on grocery items, plus you’ll get exclusive weekly deals.

Happy shopping (and savings)! I’d love to hear about your own nutrition-boosting tactics!

(sponsored partnership with Giant Tiger)

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22 Comments January 27, 2021

Healthy Swellness: 2020 Year in Review

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What can I say about this past year…I debated not writing this post this year, but then I started thinking it might be helpful to look back and see that this year wasn’t a total write-off…

This year started off really well for me. 2019 had ended amazingly with a phenomenal trip to Thailand. And I felt like 2020 was going to be my year. Work was going well, I was working with many smart and kind people and was in a groove. In early February of this year, I had the phenomenal opportunity to run the Dead Sea Marathon (I just did the half distance as I was not in race-shape) and extended my trip and fell totally in love with Israel. The phenomenal food, the sights, and I will always remember Tel Aviv as the city where a complete stranger secretly paid for my lunch, just out of the kindness of his heart.

Then I came back in early March from a press trip on a cruise and the pandemic had fully grabbed hold of Toronto a few days later. And 2020 all went to SH*T. It was most definitely not going to be my year, or anyone’s year. And it’s been hard AF.

But a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that this year has not been the most challenging year I’ve experienced, and since then, this has made me feel more prepared to make it through each day. I feel like I’m always a work in progress when it comes to being more resilient and if anything this year has shown how resilient we all are. Day to day life has been a struggle for sure, and as overwhelming as those struggles have been, I’m happy and proud of a few things I managed to do this year:

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I ran my first ultra race. I worked my ass off and ran 1,021.68 kilometres in 91 days, and then ran and walked another 1,021.68k before the official end of the four-month period of the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. Thinking back to May and June now, I truly can’t believe I ran sometimes as much as three times a day to complete the race more than twice as early as I initially planned to complete the race. And to have doubled the distance with including a ton of walking. I had Laz Lake comment on one or two of my Facebook comments so having this running legend correspondence, plus doing this virtual race with my friend Aylin, well, this experience would not have happened without the pandemic as I have always sworn that I am not someone who runs every single day, including getting up to run at sunrise (which in an of itself is an accomplishment for this non-morning person).

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I read 17 books. I started the year with a few goals, and I only managed to complete one of them. While I failed at learning how to use my camera and doing workouts other than running, I crushed my goal to read one book a month. I’m thrilled to have returned to my passion for reading. I took too many years off from reading books and being able to disconnect from social media and escape into a book has helped me regain a sense of calm. I have an ongoing list of books to read and plan to continue and hopefully boost how much I read in the new year. (Of the two books pictured, I reco Ask Again, Yes; I didn’t get to the Gladwell book yet!)

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I found new ways to spend time with friends. My go-to for catching up with friends is typically to meet for dinner and drinks. While that will always be something I love to do, with restaurants closed for dining much of this year, it means with some friends, we have discovered new ways to see each other. Including hiking (something I love but somehow with certain friends we just have never made the effort to), or just meeting at a park or for a bike ride. And enjoying the outdoors always serves up a fantastic mood boost.

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I rode my bike more than I have in my entire life, and on city streets. I only started riding my bike towards the end of August, as I was entirely focused on completing as many running and walking kilometres for my virtual race up until then. But once I completed that race, I rode my bike (even on busy streets like College St.!) to get around the city, and I met up with friends to go for a ride, usually with our destination being a delicious local food spot. I still am not 100 percent comfortable with riding in the city, but this year I’ve ridden at night, in the rain and snow and was on my bike up until December 29th. Today there’s some snow and ice on the roads so I might need to pause until spring, but all of the kilometres I completed on two wheels these last few months is a major feat for me.

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The biggest and best thing to come out of this year, though, is that it’s forced me to remember and appreciate what really matters, being in good health and the people that are important to me. I’ve tried my best to nurture both those things; that said, I regularly fail at getting enough sleep, though, and have developed a chocolate habit the past few months; and sometimes I just don’t have the bandwidth to check in on loved ones. I try not to beat myself up about it, we are all doing the best we can, after all. We survived this unprecedented way of living and that’s a lot, and it’s enough if that is “all” you can chalk up for this year.

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Take a moment to think of the best that’s come out of this past year. I think you too will find there are those moments, even if small. Even if fleeting. Even if the only thing you can think of that you accomplished is finishing a puzzle (I have only managed to complete one, turns out I’m terrible at puzzles. But I’m still working at it!).

Oh, I almost forgot to check my 2020 Top Nine on Instagram…about half are fitness-focused. A couple of travel shots, and one is from my Billie Jean-centred partnership with Giant Tiger (she’s still snacking on the treats from that partnership!). And one is all about gin, which makes sense as I sure sipped more than a few cocktails in 2020!

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And with that, I wish you a brighter, safe and happy 2021.

k xo

Leave a Comment December 30, 2020

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